Divya Arora had made the wheelchair a part of theatre language in Delhi, before she disappeared from the stage nine years ago. Suffering from cerebral palsy, Arora is the country’s best-known wheelchair-bound actor on stage. Romantic comedies were her forte, highlighting not only her pluck but also how differently-abled people negotiated love. The actor, director and playwright,
who moved to Mumbai to work in Bollywood in 2009, is playing her first serious role in Dr Khanna, a play written, directed and co-acted by Tom Alter. Excerpts from an interview with Arora:
Why did you take up this role?
I have known Tom Alter for more than 10 years. I have performed a lot of lighthearted comedies but when Alter wrote the play, he had me in mind for Dr Khanna. There was no other option but to play it.
How do you essay this character?
My Dr Khanna is high-society, renowned and well-read. She has her problems but never shows it. Mr Kohli, a rich businessman in his late 50s, comes to her when he is at the tipping point of his life. During the 45-minute consultation, Dr Khanna challenges his perspectives and makes him see things in a new way. The play gives a very big message to the audience — your problems are of your making, and can be unmade.
Is the role of Dr Khanna partly autobiographical?
Yes, it is. I started theatre when I was studying in Lady Shri Ram in Delhi. It was very difficult for me to continue with theatre, but isn’t that true for every actor? I do not see myself as being different.
Your characters always have upper-class backgrounds, including Dr Khanna. Is there a reason you choose to play urban characters only?
I am an urban woman and my audiences are urban. I have to make them relate what they see on stage to their own lives.
Why haven’t you been more active in theatre recently?
For every actor, the final destination is Mumbai. I moved to Mumbai and became a filmmaker. I trained Hrithik Roshan in Guzaarish and worked on Barfi and Shaitan. I am now making my directorial debut and have roped in Lillete Dubey and Boman Irani as actors.